Why is Chrome so important to Google? It's a 'locked-in user'

Google execs say the lifetime value of a Chrome user is extremely valuable to the company. "Chrome is a guaranteed locked-in user for us in terms of having access to Google," says CFO Patrick Pichette.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google's Chrome browser historically has looked like just another side project for the company. Sure Chrome is a speedy browser. Sure Google has garnered impressive market share in a short time. And yes Google gets to push browser development a bit.

But the real importance of Chrome---and why Google is marketing the browser so heavy around the world---boils down to the lifetime value of a Chrome user.

CFO Patrick Pichette was asked about the importance of Chrome on the company's earnings conference call and his answer bonks you over the head.

There are really two stories on Chrome. There is a tactical question and there is a strategic question. Chrome is really pushing the Web, and it has a fantastic opportunity that, when people have adopted Chrome, they basically instead of looking for Google and looking for search, the omnibox gives them immediate access to Google search. So from a strategic perspective, it has that in Chrome OS. On a tactical basis, everybody that uses Chrome is a guaranteed locked-in user for us in terms of having access to Google.

Nikesh Arora, chief business officer at Google, also chimed in on the marketing ROI for pushing Chrome (image credit: Tinto via Flickr).

We have over 120 million daily users and 40% of them were added in the past year as a result of our marketing efforts. So you've seen the 30% growth quarter-over-quarter in our Chrome usage. So I think, from all perspectives, the Chrome strategy is working. The way we distribute Chrome is people get it organically or they get it based on our marketing efforts, or they see our marketing and they choose to download it, or we work with partners who help us promote Chrome to our users and to other users. So in that context, we found that marketing very often ends up with an equivalent or better ROI than us having to go to partnership deals. Sometimes you'll see that our TAC and our marketing around Chrome is fungible. Where we spend money and marketing, we take away from TAC as it relates to Chrome. So you can expect us to continue to drive Chrome strategically because it has not just a Chrome specific benefit for us but it also impacts many of our other products that work as part of Chrome. So the lifetime value of a Chrome user is phenomenal.

Boil those comments down and the Chrome returns look something like this:

  • A Chrome user can contribute to a feedback loop that improves search quality.
  • A Chrome user will use Google extensively with little to no slippage.
  • Google can spend less on traffic acquisition costs.
  • The company doesn't have to spend as much on distribution---think the fees for the Firefox search bar.
  • And this locked-in Google user is more likely to increase engagement as the company adds Chrome apps and social features down the line.

By the way, Chrome also gives Google a hand in browser standards, but that ROI seems decidedly naive when you consider the lifetime value of Chrome user.


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